Getting a Charge Out of Electro-Fishing

Click to view slideshow (photos by Michele Turre)

River fishermen will wonder why we spent time stunning and counting fish on the pictured “skinny” stretch of South River water. The answer is to show the damage done by river straightening. About half of the reaches that we surveyed contained good looking pools, riffles , and runs. We found trout in these sections. The other half of the reaches were straightened, shallow affairs that resemble storm drains more than cold water fish habitats. Even so, the pooled and broken head water at the top of the pictured long, straight run contained a couple of trout.

As our standard catch was a one and one half inch minnow, a trout of four inches seemed like a big fish! It wasn’t long before we regarded the electric stunning as fishing that required particular skills. You do not want to apply so much electric juice to the water that you kill the fish. Keeping the voltage low meant a good trout would feel a jolt, see the net, and bolt! Nikos, the handsome, long – haired guy with one of the nets, proved to be very quick in responding to the lightening fast movements of the better fish. My age appropriate job was to carry the fish holding bucket, which was quite enough, because in the better pooled and riffled water staying upright was a challenge. I slipped on a few mossy rocks, but never dumped the bucket.

Nikos and our leader Mike Cole did take a couple of hits of electric power while we were trying to finish a section in spite of a drizzle, but mostly the charges we got out of the electro-fishing were more poetic than physical.

Nikos, Mike, and myself are members of the Deerfield River Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The other net man is Rob, who will join once his career allows him to be regularly settled in his home town of Leyden.

We are all thankful that the Friends of the South River, of which I am a member, worked to get the grant to study the river. A geological study was conducted last year. Still to do is an aquatic insect survey, that Mike Cole will lead this coming Fall.

~ Bob Anderson

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